Scientists Discover Skin Aging Marker in Stem Cells

Scientists at Newcastle University (UK) have identified a key metabolic enzyme linked to aging. According to results from a study published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the activity of mitochondrial complex II declines with age. Mark Birch-Machin, professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University, led the pioneering study with Amy Bowman, M.D., and their discovery brings experts a step closer to developing powerful anti-aging treatments and cosmetic products, which may be tailored to counteract the decline in the enzyme's activity levels.

Findings may also lead to a greater understanding of how other organs in the body age, which could pave the way for drug developments in a number of age-related diseases, including cancer. "As our bodies age we see that the batteries in our cells run down, known as decreased bio-energy, and harmful free radicals increase,” says Birch-Machin."This process is easily seen in our skin as increased fine lines, wrinkles and sagging appears. You know the story, or at least your mirror does first thing in the morning!”

Complex II activity was measured in 27 donors, age six to 72 years old. Samples were taken from a sun-protected area of skin to determine if there was a difference in activity with increasing age. Researchers measured the activities of the key enzymes within mitochondria that are involved in producing the skin cell's energy, a type of mitochondrial gym or skin physical. This was applied to cells derived from the upper (epidermis) and lower (dermis) levels of skin. "Our study shows, for the first time, in human skin that with increasing age there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of the skin cells,” says Birch- Machin. "This enzyme is the hinge between the two important ways of making energy in our cells and a decrease in its activity contributes to decreased bio-energy in ageing skin. Our research means that we now have a specific biomarker, or a target, for developing and screening anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic creams that may counter this decline in bio-energy. There is now a possibility of finding anti-ageing treatments which can be tailored to differently aged and differently pigmented skin, and with the additional possibility to address the ageing process elsewhere in our bodies."